Is This Pentagon-Backed Agriculture Project Actually a Front for Biological Weapons Research?

Almost two years ago, the Pentagon announced an ambitious new research project dubbed Insect Allies. The initiative would, per the stated purpose, create an innovative new way to genetically modify agricultural crops. Rather than rely on seed modifications conducted in laboratories, Insect Allies research would explore the potential of modifying viruses to infect a target crop and introduce the desired genetic changes directly.

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, is funding this research in the hopes of devising a way to disperse viruses via insect carriers that would directly edit crops’ chromosomes in the field. This technology could potentially be used in the event of widespread crop failure or a similar agricultural crisis.

Traditionally, genetic modification is implemented vertically — that is, spreading the desired traits hereditarily over several generations. This new method would represent horizontal implementation, hence the term Horizontal Environmental Genetic Alteration Agents, or HEGAAs.

While these are certainly noble aims on the surface, some scientists are concerned about the potential risks that comes with the use of HEGAAs — both unforeseen and malicious.

In a new report published in the academic journal “Science,” several experts express a severe concern about DARPA’s “dual-use research” which could involve the creations of a new type of biological weapon. The concern stems not only from the fact that this research is being conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense, but also from the apparent lack of oversight and expert guidance on ethical use of HEGAAs.

Used outside of the realm of aiding farmers, HEGAAs could serve as an incredibly powerful and insidious biological weapon. In DARPA’s own words, HEGAAs could prove useful when confronting “threats introduced by state and non-state actors” — phrasing that should give even the most trusting pause.

If the Pentagon did intend to weaponize HEGAAs, it would be in direct violation of the Biological Weapons Convention, an international agreement with 109 signatories.

Unsurprisingly, DARPA has denounced this report as deliberately characterizing Insect Allies in a poor light. The agency’s program manager insists that steps are being taken to ensure that any unintended consequences of HEGAA usage are prevented, while outright rejecting the idea that DARPA is researching biological weapons.

It is not merely a matter of how DARPA might or might not make use of HEGAAs, as the report in “Science” points out. The fact that the Pentagon is conducting research in such an area may inspire other actors with malicious intent to either follow suit or to eventually co-opt the use of HEGAAs. In the wrong hands, HEGAAs could decimate agriculture in a given country and precipitate widespread famine.

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Photo Credit: meric tuna/Unsplash

32 comments

Chad Anderson
Chad A1 months ago

Thank you.

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Jetana A
Jetana A2 months ago

Of course it is! Everything the Pentagon does is for warfare purposes. And this would be a terrible idea even as a peaceful venture, as organic crops would also be impacted.

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Joan E
Joan E2 months ago

There are too many sickos finding new ways to torture, poison, and blow up the world. We don't need the Trumps and Stephen Millers and Dr. Mengeles.

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Naomi D
Naomi Dreyer2 months ago

Oh, oh, oh

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Heather B
Heather B2 months ago

Yes and Monsanto really cares about people, politicians tell the truth and I have bridge in Brooklyn to ell you.

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David F
David F2 months ago

We can bet the Chinese, Russians and many others are doing exactly the same right now. Knowledge is power and security.

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Alea C
Alea C2 months ago

I bet this isn't the only case of our government doing experimental research with zero oversight, but it's terrifying to say the least.

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Camilla V
Camilla Vaga2 months ago

thx

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R2 months ago

Fact or science fiction? Thanks for posting your opinion.

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Robert F
Robert Fitzgerald2 months ago

Men do so want to kill us all. So, let me present my version of the Rapture as a means for escape from this Apocalyptic warrior idea. The Rapture at this time, as we are transitioning into the scientific and technological Age of Aquarius, might very easily align with Aquarian non-traditional scientific utopian imagery, rather than fantasy Age of Pisces imagery, as taking place on extra-terrestrial space ships. Those of us with loving and forgiving hearts will then be chosen to be beamed up to the heaven of waiting ships where time will stop for us, and we will be put through technology to advance our evolution to light beings, homo luminous, to wait out the shit storm of the Apocalypse here on the surface of the earth. We just need to invite them to take us up. Think Close Encounters rather than Independence Day.

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